Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Shier.
Sara, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always been an animal lover. I wanted to be a killer whale trainer after watching Free Willy, I didn’t understand why three dogs was too many, and every flat piece of land I saw I imagined myself galloping bareback on a horse into sunset. It took many years of convincing, but my parents finally let me take horseback riding lessons when I was 12 around my very competitive softball schedule. It took another five years of my entire family to convince my parents to buy my heart horse Marco who I’ve now owned for over ten years now!
Since owning my horse Marco all I’ve ever wanted to do was share our story with those who mattered most to me. I quickly became known as the girl at the barn with a camera. Even after going off to school in New York City, I still came back home to California ready to capture my horse again. As I started working, photography became a side hustle to help pay for the horses. That was in 2015 and I am now one of California’s leading equine event and portrait photographers.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Is being a small business owner ever easy? Haha
The hardest part of being solely an equine photographer is it is a very small niche and can be extremely difficult to get your foot in the door. There are only a handful of horse show photographers on the A hunter/ jumper circuit so I consider myself extremely lucky to work with the management companies I do and strive to go above and beyond for them!
The horse world is very small so your reputation is everything, when you reach a certain level of clients that you are serving you can’t make mistakes anymore.
Alright – so let’s talk business. What else should we know about you and your career so far?
I’m an equine portrait and horse show photographer, primarily serving hunter/ jumper riders on the A circuit throughout California. I started out strictly doing portraits but was offered my first horse show contract in 2018.
My time is now split between portraits and covering horse shows either as the official or as a private client photographer. I dedicate about 20 weeks a year to horse shows and photograph anywhere from 200-300 portrait sessions a year.
We have a great reputation as a company when it comes to being the Official Photographer and that’s something I’m so proud of. My team is the best in the biz (in my eyes at least) and we value full-coverage and quality images, which can be hard to provide at five-day horse shows with hundreds of horses competing in a day! Our dedication to making sure each and every competitor leaves the show knowing their rounds were covered every single day of the show is something that has always set us apart.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The lack of business education in the photography industry is a huge problem I see. I wish more people started their business with a clear understanding of branding, marketing and finances. I owe a lot to my first job out of college for teaching me everything I needed to know about running a multi-million dollar business when I first started out. It helped me able to grow my business more quickly than most.
Above all, the greatest compliment I ever got from a fellow private client photographer I really admired was “you don’t hide away and you’re not afraid to talk to people. It goes a long way that you don’t just hide on your phone.” Connection, trust and integrity are core values of my business. I want people who work with me to feel heard, respected, and understood. I’m not afraid to spend hours chatting away!
- Equine Portraits: $350
- Horse + Riders: $500-$2495
- Private client Coverage $650/a week
- Website: sarashierphotography.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: http://instagram.com/sarashierphotography
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaraShierPhotography
Amy Johanson (only on photo of me)